some fall in love. i shatter.

A Dream Can Be A Dangerous Thing – Part IV of IV: Dreams (#24)

In Stories Volume 2 on October 8, 2012 at 11:16 am

(A minor note before we begin: the text in gray is from Part II of this story; the text in black, which is interwoven, is the new portion that makes up Part IV. It should all fall into place together. The easiest way to now read the entire four-part story (if you need a refresher from last week) is to read all of Part III and then all of Part IV, both gray and black portions, in order to follow the sequence of reality and the dreams that interrupt said reality)

 

R5

 

“There must… be more…”

 

 

D5

 

Trin fell asleep in Istanbul with the lights of the Hagia Sophia outside the hotel window and awoke to the headache inducing pollution of Beijing. While walking the ancient curves of the hutongs, both she and Flint were overwhelmed by the smoke and steam from someone’s kitchen and they reemerged in the fog of the Golden Gate Bridge. Gazing upwards, they could make out the curving arc of the massive International Orange beams but after Flint stumbled against an oncoming gazer, they looked back up to see the arc become the Gateway Arch.

‘What are we doing in St. Louis?’ Flint asked, only to be met with Trina’s puzzled face.

‘St. Louis? We’re in St. Petersburg, silly.’ And so they were…

Trina pointed to the statues atop the Winter Palace as evidence, her finger aimed directly, but as she began describing the statue to Flint, they both realized that Trin’s finger pointed at the statue above the Brandenburg Gate. ‘I feel so dumb,’ she said. Flint kissed her softly and Trina turned them down an alleyway where she ran her fingers along the wall, fingertips slipping into the chipped remnants of old bullet holes. Coming hand-in-hand to the end of the alley puckered with still more artillery memories, Trin and Flint sidestepped the red resin of a Sarajevo Rose in the asphalt. As they knelt down to examine the cracks, the loose petals from a cherry blossom tree came floating down over their still finger-entwined hands. They rose in unison to see the Washington Monument towering in the sky. As they strolled the length of the National Mall, the still water of the Reflecting Pool beckoned them on until it wasn’t the Reflecting Pool but the Seine; and it wasn’t the Mall but the Champ de Mars.

The shadow of the Eiffel Tower cooled them from the summer sun and the couple basked in the relative calm of the park until they began hearing car horns and shouting, and they smelled the busy scents of a city center. Trin opened her eyes to the Empire State Building in place of the Eiffel Tower. She held Flint closer.

‘I’ll go anywhere with you,’ she said.

‘Let’s just stay home for awhile.’

 

 

R6

 

The cold sterility of the doctor’s office reminded Trina of so many clichés that she grew increasingly uncertain whether she was dreaming or awake. Pop’s presence in the corner of her eye laid those questions to rest even as she tried not to look at him.

“I know you’re annoyed, Trin, but this is part of what you signed on for. I could never let you do this if there was no medical review. It’s not the story, it’s your safety, which is a part of the story, I suppose.” Pop pulled a steno pad from the jacket that hung wrinkled and worn looking from his broad shoulders, scribbling down a reminder to have Brandon write-up his notes on the doctor’s office experience. Trina turned to meet him eye-to-eye for the first time since they’d come in together.

“It’s not the exam, it’s your gunning for a reason to demand the pills back. It’s your lack of trust in what I’m doing.”

“You’ve copped to taking more than necessary or required. I gave you nine pills. That was for nine days. We’re on, what, the fifth day? You should have five left but you’ve only got four. This article’s about addiction and my reporter’s taking excessive amounts of a drug and hiding it from her editor.”

“I’m not hiding anything, Pop.”

“You ducked Brandon the other day. And now I’m to believe that you were legitimately sick yesterday? And you just didn’t call anyone? And didn’t answer your phone? Trin, it’s fine, you don’t need to hide anything. This was the notion we were operating under and the thing we were trying to discover. But now that we’ve reached this point, I can’t in good conscious allow you to keep going with it.”

There was a knock on the door and Doctor Richmond entered the room, clipboard in hand; the reporters in Pop and Trina tried to make out the small font on the page but neither could make out the words that mattered.

“Alright, Trin, Pop. I’m happy to report that there’s no actual indication of addiction. Nothing chemical, nothing neurological, nothing at all. But we expected that – you’ve been on these sleeping pills for,” Richmond glanced down at the clipboard he had been tapping his knuckle against, “four nights now and you’ve taken five pills. I don’t like that you’re taking more than the prescribed dosage and I have to recommend that you stop that.

“The most apt comparison I can think of would be an overeater. An overeater comprehends that continuing to eat is a bad thing with negative consequences, but chooses to do so anyway. Compared to a food addict, or any other addict, whose biology has literally changed and cannot stop doing the addictive action. Just as overeating can be a symptom of an eating disorder or something larger, your proclivity towards these pills could possibly be a symptom of some other disorder but that’s not something I’m going to be able to suss out right here today.” Richmond paused, catching Pop’s concern and reception before falling on Trin’s defiant and redemptive eyes.

“And that’s it, Doc?”  Trin tripped off the examination table where her legs had been dangling over the edge like when she was a child, her black boots knocking occasionally against the metal.

“Well… I suppose, beyond my recommendation that you kick the pills and find- ”

“Thanks, Doc. I’m still on the story and I’ve got research to do, Pop, but I’ll check in later. Oh, and don’t send Brandon to skulk around my apartment building. He smells like farts and I can detect it from upstairs.”

“Trina!”

 

 

D6

 

Trin’s right foot, wrapped up in a lazy white boat shoe, pushed against the graying and cracked wooden boards of the beach house’s wraparound porch. She sat on the beach side of the porch where she could see the dark blue water present itself to the land before transforming into tumultuous white waves crashing upon the shore. The ocean breeze carried sand, salt, and the eerie intimations of things unseen; that was Trina’s favorite part of the ocean: the mystery of it all. Seagulls squawked in front of her but none were hungry enough to dare approach no matter how enticing the crumbs of the mozzarella and tomato sandwich dotting the white plate on the table to her right. Trin lifted her foot and the glider swung forward, back, and then repeated the sequence once more before she pushed again to maintain a slow, steady pace. A glass of mellow Chardonnay sat next to the empty plate and was itself half emptied. The seagulls wouldn’t even stand a chance there.

Trin glanced at her cellphone sitting silent next to the wine glass’s stem. She hated waiting for these calls and hated it even more when they were late. Where was the commitment, where was the desire, where was the push they were always so eager to impress upon her. My mind’s made up, she thought, but I like to see robust strength of convictions. The clock on the phone’s display ticked ahead one more minute to 2:17pm. Trin picked up the glass and downed the remaining straw-colored wine. The phone rang.

– Hello.

– Yes, this is she.

– Yes, Connie told me that you’d be calling.

– Not at all, I’m just sitting on my porch enjoying a quiet afternoon.

– He’s back in the city working. He loves his work and he’s back early every evening.

– This isn’t a vacation; this is just where I come to get some work done from time to time.

– A book, yes.

– I really can’t say yet. Simple superstition keeps me from telling anyone but my husband and agent before the first draft is written. Otherwise the idea dries up and I lose it completely, which has happened far too many times in the past.

– Yes, Connie told me what you’d be calling about and I’m really not interested. I tried to impress this point upon her but she told me how insistent you were.

– That’s a very flattering offer but I’m at a point in my career where I’m doing what I love and doing it in a way that I enjoy.

– I already have three Pulitzers and I don’t have it in me to put up with the stress and rigor that comes with fighting for it again.

– Even if it’s only sitting on the Editorial Board.

– No.

– I understand completely well.

– I am also very happy with the three novels, thank you. And a lot of adults say they’ve read the children’s books as well. I’m very lucky to have cultivated this following.

– No, newspapers to adult fiction to children’s fiction is not easy.

– I have some ideas on what to do next but I’m taking my time.

– No, I use that time quite purposely to work towards creativity. I couldn’t devote it to your project, I’m sorry; it wouldn’t be fair to my fans expecting a certain style of work nor to your company, which would expect a greater degree of focus than I can promise.

– That’s a very, very flattering number, don’t get me wrong, but you must realize that I’m not wanting for financial stimulation.

– Correct.

– Correct.

– Haha, don’t worry. I appreciate the offer, thank you for thinking of me, but I really am quite happy where I am.

– Yes, Connie is your point of contact.

– Thank you.

 

 

R7

 

The blinds were down and though all of the clocks had been turned off, radiant bursts of sunlight breaking through the edges of the windows betrayed the general time of day. Trin sat at her desk, that minimalist slab of stained black wood, absent any drawers, simply a stand that held a slew of stacked notebooks, a laptop, a pen jar, and now, an increasingly slighter number of purple pills, already released from their blister packs.

Pop doesn’t know what he’s talking about, she thought. Times like this she had a tendency to even hate his name. Pop. Just because Phil’s nickname is Pop doesn’t mean he gets to be a father figure. She tried to recall how many times she’d been this mad at him. She decided on three. Ironic, as there were three pills sitting quietly upon the dark wood in front of her.    

Trin stood up and walked over to the couch where she flopped down, fumbled for the remotes on the coffee table, and switched on another daytime atrocity. It was hard for her to say who she was trying to make a point for. I don’t need the pills, I don’t even care about the pills, they’re just fun, she thought. Comparisons weren’t coming quickly but she knew it was the kind of thing that everyone had in one way or another. Runners, she finally settled on, choose to run in order to transport themselves into this world where they’re athletes, racing from battles to deliver news of victory or chasing down gazelles for food. Fiction readers regularly put themselves into fantastic worlds purely for enjoyment or entertainment. What’s so different about sleeping pills that take me into a fantasy world where everything is right, everything comes easier, everything is beautiful? Trin lifted her head and looked over the back of the couch towards her desk. They were still there, safe.

She shut off the television – the inanity overwhelming and killing off her brain cells. Trin lay there, staring upwards, losing herself in the popcorn ceiling above. She had awoken, she thought, only a few hours ago but it was difficult to discern. A measure of fatigue permeated her body and mind, the clocks were gone (she’d even taped over that corner of her laptop screen), the blinds closed. But the sun had been pushing around the blinds when she awoke and it remained still. Tired but it had only been a few hours. The pills remained on the desk; there was no need to look. She sat up and looked.

Trin leaned over to the coffee table and pulled two unread copies of The Atlantic and an untouched yet dog-eared copy of White Noise. She tried one, then the other, then the other, each holding her attention for a few seconds less than the previous. Glossy page 87 of the May Atlantic stuck to her finger where it lay over Trin’s waist. She thought about the pills, told herself she didn’t need them, told herself she didn’t even want them. Hindsight’s making the dreams seem better, she lied to herself. Eyes on the ceiling, a tiny streak of light crossed from one side to the other; there were so many hours left in the day before she’d be tired enough to sleep on her own. The act was so fraught now though, so much like sleep the night before Christmas when she was a child, Trin wasn’t even certain she’d be able to sleep on her own. It’s so far away, she thought. No other assignments to fill the day, no desire to call friends, no desire to be outside. One day would become an eternity but she had to prove something to herself and to Pop.

Anyway, she thought, there’re only three left. Trina walked back to the desk to verify they were still there. Holding each one in her hand, one at a time, and flopping it around her palm like a slightly flattened glass bead, she began to wonder if by holding one tightly in her fist, she could warm the solidified gel and liquid of the pill and then begin to absorb the chemicals through her skin. A bit of sleepy osmosis. Trin sat down in the Ikea kitchen table chair that she used as a desk chair, lined up all three pills, and stared at them for a few minutes. “One, two, three,” she said aloud. “This is over in three days time anyway.”

Swiftly, she grabbed one purple pill with her right hand, cupped it, and then squeezed it tightly on the inside of her fist as she made her way past the clothes and papers on the floor to her small bedroom. She easily slid between the ruffled sheets of the unmade bed, kicking her legs through doubled-over curves and comforters necessary in the heavily air-conditioned apartment. Trin squeezed her hand tightly, sometimes loosening the grip to create a hole into which she would breathe warm air. Time and time again she checked but no change, no discernable shift in the pill’s state of matter. Every time she shifted her hand around and moved the pill across her skin, she hoped to feel some measure of slickness, some smear, but she met with nothing at all.

Trina’s knuckles groaned when she opened her palm an hour later to find the pill still fully intact. Her first thought was of failure but the second made her reconsider. What if, she thought, it doesn’t break down to a proper liquid but the friction over my hand allows for miniscule flecks to come off on my skin, to diffuse right into my hands. Such tiny little shavings would be able to do that. And what if I’m not noticing it yet as the amounts are so small, but I’ll feel a little something later? And if that’s the truth, then the potency of the pill is compromised and when I need it to finish my reports (at the proper time, Pops), it’ll be weakened. Shit, I’ve backed myself into a corner. It was an accident, but my experiment means that now I’ll just have to take the pill in order to maintain consistency and consistent dosing.

A tiny smile broke as she swallowed the pill.

 

 

D7

 

Trina had been spending more and more time at the beach house, allowing her synapses to slow just the slightest from what was required within the metropolis. Neither her brain nor her body were tired, it was more like a long-distance runner relaxing into a manageable pace after the energetic burst from the start line. Flint continued working in the city but the new rail system built by the Japanese meant that he could be commute in and out of the city in under thirty minutes. The station had been built just a ten-minute walk away and the trains ran as silently as the rain fell.

 

“You really don’t seem to have aged much, Mom.” Brianna sat on the red and white striped loveseat in the living room with a photo album open on her lap. She slowly ran her finger down each plastic-coated page as Michelle sat next to her and Trin mixed three iced coffees with dark rum just beyond the kitchen pass-through.

“Yeah, Mom, you look almost the same now as you do in photos from thirty years ago.”

“Are you two telling me that I looked sixty-eight when I was thirty-eight? I’ll down these three drinks myself if that’s what you’re saying.” Trin carried the three tall, round glasses, clumped into a tubular triangle, into the living room. Michelle tossed out three coasters before the sweating glasses met the tabletop. She dropped into an oversized armchair and toasted her daughters without a word.

“We’re saying that you still look thirty-eight, which is pretty miraculous having put up with us and Dad for so long.”

“You gals have been wonderful and your father has only aged me a little more than necessary.” Trin smiled as the glass touched her lips and two drips of the coffee and rum slipped over the edge and raced towards the bottom of the glass before dropping from the base and marring her loose, beige linen shirt. “Oh shit. Sorry girls, I’ll be right back.”

The guest rooms were located on one side of the house, the bedroom that Trina and Flint shared on another. One of the bedroom walls was comprised completely of windows onto the expanse of ocean. That wall seemed larger than the entire house appeared from the outside. Trin always chalked it up to the limitlessness of the ocean just a shout away, sneaking infinite tendrils through the crack and seams of the house. Before making it to the bathroom where she would remove her shirt and hold it under the stream of hot water while scrubbing with a bit of detergent, Trina was distracted by a bolt of lightening far off across the water that lit the sky like the flashbulb of an old camera.

She approached the panels, pressing her forehead up against the cool glass. It had been so warm and humid outside just an hour or two ago. Michelle had claimed to smell rain as they walked back from the beach and now Trin watched the lightening across the water, saw the clouds alight with the fire inside, saw the treetops and bushes blowing from side to side on a wind that forecast only one thing.

The water, black as night, was betrayed by that same wind, revealing itself in the foam and white caps that formed with the rushing winds that raced towards land. Trin stepped back and rubbed the flat, cool spot where her forehead had been against the glass. The lightning’s frequency picked up alongside the intensity. She was glad it was still so far off and quietly hoped that the worst of it would stay away, leave her and her daughters with no more than the steady drumbeat of rain to lull them to sleep.

She checked her watch, saw that it was just 9pm. Flint would be home in less than fifteen minutes. He didn’t mind the rain and almost always carried an umbrella, but he was brisk, disliked being away from Trin, and hated to be away from the daughters he claimed they never saw enough of, even in the days following their month-long visits.

A massive lightening bolt lit up the sky and Trin’s darkened bedroom. Moments later, a crack of thunder tore the atmosphere in two; Michelle and Brianna oohing and aahing in the living room. “Did you hear that, Mom?” one of them called out but she ignored the question and kept her gaze on the water ahead. It seemed so limitless, so endless, yet she knew this was only fanciful sentimentality. Or was it? It was limitless to her, endless to her tiny corporeal form. She could never conquer it and so the understanding and comprehension of the ocean for the world was not quite the same as it was for her personally. Anyone can fall into anything limited and disappear forever provided they afford themselves the proper opportunities.

Another bolt of lightning, another crack of thunder. Trina sat back on the bed behind her, her eyes awash in wonder.

She heard the sound of Flint’s key in the front door and instantly smiled, her lips a bolt of lightning across her face.

 

 

R8

 

“I smelled his farts. Well, I don’t know if Brandon was actually farting but he just carries this scent of fart.”

“You know, I don’t smell it at all.”

“Maybe that means you fart too much yourself, Pop.”

“Really great to have you back. You’ve heard the news, I’m sure. Fle’s been pulled off the market. Institutions with a little more prestige than Spyglass did their own clinical investigations and found essentially the same thing that you’re finding.”

“Does that make this whole exercise useless?”

“No way are we letting this go! Everyone else took the cold, scientific, big-budget angle; we’re the only ones I know of, or at least the biggest, that took the personal and experimental. Your story’ll be the one that people relate to, that they understand. People love an addiction-meets-redemption story. We’ll need it pretty fast. You can have it on my desk by tomorrow?”

“It’ll be tight. I didn’t keep the best notes. Bit of a haze a lot of the past few days, but I remember the dreams clearly and I can compare certain notes with Brandon to make sure I’m not fabricating anything, at least for when I was letting him around me.”

“Good, good. And to clarify – you told me you took seven pills, so you’ve gotten rid of the remaining two?

“They’ve been pulled, Pop, it’s not like they’re a viable temptation anymore. But either way, yes, I got rid of the last two this morning. Flushed them, only way to ensure I wouldn’t go hunting through the trash.”

“You know I’m sorry about the way things got tense. That wasn’t my intention.”

“I appreciate your intentions. Now let me go work on this – I’ll get most done today and finish the ending tonight.”

 

She hated lying to him – he really was looking out for her but that didn’t mean he knew what was right. Not all the time and not for her. He was a boss and nothing else. The finite amount of pills gave Trin an immovable schedule to work off of but she still felt as if she needed to dictate and manage herself and her situation on her own terms.

Trina stood in the far stall of the women’s bathroom on the second floor of the office building the newspaper was housed in. The last two pills sat in her right palm, open towards the ceiling, each one staring into one of her eyes. She bent over and held her left hand in front of the sensor at the back of the toilet. After a few seconds, a light clicked on, she moved her hand away, and the toilet commenced flushing. Trin dropped one of the purple pills into the toilet and watched it crack upon the porcelain and then swirl briefly, a purple bolt of lightening, before suction and gravity pulled it out of sight forever.

The other pill she put back into her pocket. She needed to end things on her own terms. She needed to find a way to say goodbye.

 

 

D8

 

“I know we haven’t spent as much time together as we would’ve liked all these years.”

“You’re crazy! I think we’ve done more together, seen more together, lived more together than any other couple that we know.”

She giggled in this slight, breathy way that only he could make her do and, oddly, made her feel fat, though in the way of someone terribly comfortable in her skin.

“You’re just looking for reaffirmation. You just want me telling you how much I love you. You’re a glutton for it. You can’t get enough.”

“I suppose you’re right. But admit it’s a little nervous making like this, me going away on this project. There’s no closing date.”

“Because you make the end date and anyway, you know I’ll be here for you. Nothing says we can’t visit each other. Nothing says you’re going through this alone. I wouldn’t leave you to that.”

“I love you an awful lot.”

“Good.”

He paused.

“I think I hear your car outside.”

She pulled back the lace curtains and saw the black town car idling in the driveway. No luggage, no carry-ons, no final, frantic panic throughout the house that had become normal when either of them flew. There was nothing left to do, no stalling the trip. She reached and took his face in her hands; she locked eyes for a moment and then kissed him slowly, savoring each component of it. She broke the kiss and hugged tightly the husband she couldn’t imagine distancing herself from. She whispered ‘I love you’ into his ear one thousand times and she was out of the house.

“I love you, Trin,” he called as she closed the front door.

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